GW to unveil mural on campus to commemorate first Black alumna

Two recent graduates plan to lead a project to create a mural on campus in honor of Leah Brock McCartney, GW’s first Black alumna, according to a University release Wednesday.

The release states Owen Manning and Naseem Haamid, who both graduated from GW this spring, will lead the initiative to install the 26 by 36 foot mural painted by a local Black female artist by the end of the upcoming academic year. The graduates submitted their proposal for the mural to University President Thomas LeBlanc in October after drafting designs in fall 2019 as a project in their Black feminist theory class taught by Jordan West, the associate vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement, according to the release.

The graduates will team up with faculty advisers, University archivists and departments within the Offices for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement and Safety and Facilities to complete the project, the release states. Owen served as the president of the Black Student Union during the 2019-2020 academic year, and Haamid was the president of the GW Black Law Students Association as an undergraduate, according to the release.

“Owen and Naseem were compelled through their academic experience to take action,” West said in the release. “It is through their strength and their persistence that this project will positively impact the GW community, the D.C. community and even society at large while supporting, celebrating and honoring Black women.”

McCartney received her undergraduate law degree from GW as the University’s first Black alumna in 1954 and became the first Black woman to receive a graduate law degree from GW Law in 1968, according to the release. The release states Manning and Haamid are currently in the “initial fundraising stages” of the project and recently received a $10,000 pledge from the Luther Rice Society – a donor group that recognizes some of the University’s top benefactors.

“When you walk by this mural on campus, whether you’re a Black woman or other races and identities, I hope it makes you feel like this is a place that shares your values, this is a place where you want to be,” Manning said in the release.

The release states officials have yet to announce the location of the mural on campus.

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